Archive for April, 2011

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Bière De Mars (365 Day 143)

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Jolly Pumpkin bière de mars

Waiting for some of your favorite American craft beers each season can be pain staking. This is the case for me and Bière De Mars by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. It comes out each spring and I have been on the edge of my seat for a good month or two anticipating.

Last year I purchased three bottles, thinking that it would be enough to last until my next fix this year. You want to talk about gross under estimations, that took the cake. Of course I had to have a bottle as soon at I bought it, while the other two were going to be spaced out evenely to see how well it ages. The last two were gone less than a month later.

I purchased four as my 2011 stash. Why not more? On sale, they are still $13.00 a bottle. I do have a budget and according to my wife I have already spent on beer this year what is budgeted for the entire year. Go figure.

Bière De Mars has everything you would expect in perfect doses and levels. The oak it is aged in adds nice wood aroma and flavor, drying the palate subtley. There is an amount of funk that doesn’t pucker, but adds nice complexity with a bit of barn yard in there too. I could go on, as this is top 10 for me.

Now I only have to figure a way to make the last three bottles last for another 12 months. Enjoy!

Aroma: 10, Taste: 9, Look: 9, Drinkability: 9, Overall: 9.3

Useless Fact: In 1875, the director of the United States Patent Office sent in his resignation and advised that his department be closed. There was nothing left to invent, he claimed.

Hair Of The Dog Brewing Company Blue Dot (365 Day 142)

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Hair of the Dog Blue Dot

American craft beer day lands on Thursday evening for me each week. Rich, Steve, Chuck, and myself get together, review a few beers, and allow ourselves to get prepared for the weekend.

This weeks selection of beer was quite interesting but, as always, was American IPA and American Imperial IPA centric. That could be more of Rich’s doing than anyone’s as he is the biggest hop head of them all.

Blue Dot by Hair of the Dog Brewing Company has been on my radar for a few years. I first scored a bottle via my cousin a few years ago. Unfortunately, it was an old bottle. It was a resinous and bitter mess. I didn’t rate the beer then because there was no way of knowing what the brewery had intended, outside of the bitterness.

Fast forward a week or so ago, when said transaction with my cousin netted me a new bottle. This bottle was labeled Winter 2011. My heart raced. It is no where near the Winter of 2011 as we are finally coming out of the Winter 2010 doldrums.

As expected Blue Dot is bitter with a nice combination of orange, grapefruit, floral, and spice notes, both in the aroma and taste. The taste leaves a whopping, unbalanced bitterness but it doesn’t last and, for some reason, I liked it; which doesn’t happen often. I hope I don’t have to wait another 2-3 years for a good bottle. Enjoy!

Aroma: 9, Taste: 9, Look: 9, Drinkability: 8, Overall: 8.7

Useless Fact: Venezuela’s Angel Falls are a mile high.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company Pale 31 (365 Day 141)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Firestone Walker Pale 31

More California American craft beer for number 141. Pale 31 by Firestone Walker Brewing Company comes by way of the same transaction that landed the other recent California beers.

I would like to say thank you to the other party in my transaction as all the hoppy beers I have had from the transaction, to this point, have been fresh. I know I have ranted about this before, but if you are going to trade make sure that you get fresh beer, especially hoppy beer. Don’t be a tool and look like a fool because you don’t know how to select fresh beer. If are not sure, ask someone working at the beer store. Most of us beer geeks know at least one “guy” at one “store” and, if it is a somewhat decent person, they will tell you the truth about the beer. Back on target…

I hope this doesn’t come across negative: out of the beers I have tasted from Firestone Walker, this is probably my least favorite, even though I still rated it a 7.9. That rating means the beer is above average. I have had the beer on several occasions, so it isn’t like I believe it to be like the plague. It just goes to show the quality of beer that comes of Firestone.

Lots of citrus hops in this biscuit and caramel malt laden beer. The citrus was a combination of orange and grapefruit for me. I think the biscuit malt that comes through threw me a bit as I wasn’t expecting it, maybe that’s why I didn’t rate it as high. I was expecting a more clean malt profile. Still another quality beer from another quality west coast brewery. Enjoy!

Aroma: 8, Taste: 7, Look: 9, Drinkability: 8, Overall: 7.9

Useless Fact: Every night, wasps bite into the stem of a plant, lock their mandibles into position, stretch out at right angles to the stem, and, with legs dangling, fall asleep.

Russian River Brewing Company Damnation (365 Day 140)

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Russian River Damnation

American craft beer is always best when shared with other enthusiasts. Discussing each beer and nuances is about probably the best part of this hobby for me. Tuesday Night Beer Club (TNBC) probably had the biggest turn out of beer last night in the neighborhood of 25 beers sat on the counter for choice chance of being chosen one of the few.

Out of the rubble of the six beers that I had a chance to appreciate, I chose Damnation by Russian River as my beer of the day. I would say that I actually liked 2 Turtle Doves by The Bruery a bit more but I only had one bottle of Damnation, so it wins because I don’t have the chance to go in the cellar and have it again.

Damnation easily becomes one of my favorite Russian River beers. The complex subtleties all play well together and none really steals the show but shares the time on the palate, letting each come through nicely. I have to figure out a way to get and spend a day at Russian River. Anyone want to sponsor my trip? Enjoy!

Aroma: 8, Taste: 10, Look: 10, Drinkability: 9, Overall: 9.2

Useless Fact: The Amazon River discharges 4.2 million cubic feet of water per second in the Atlantic Ocean.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company Union Jack (365 Day 139)

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Firestone Walker Union Jack

Another day another fine American craft beer from the west coast. This time the spotlight is on Firestone Walker Brewing Company and their Union Jack beer.

Firestone Walker is a “magical” brewery for me, as everything that I seem to get my hands on, which should be more now that they distribute to Illinois, is really good to outstanding. I have had most of their regular offerings and in a recent TNBC, not to long by gone, we had a vertical of 10, 11, 12, and 13. All really good beers with 11 blowing the roof off the place.

Union Jack is one of the first beers I had from Firestone Walker. It is a solid American IPA with a heaping dose of hops that are almost not bitter at all as the beer finishes clean, enticing you back for more. Until my recent tasting of Double Jack I didn’t think this beer could be much improved upon.

Double Jack knocks it up a notch from Union Jack, with huge amounts of hops and grain to balance, leaving quite the wonderful bitterness and hop flavor in your mouth, sip after beautiful sip. I hope that more Firestone Walker continues to land in Illinois as I continue to seek it out. Enjoy!

Aroma: 9, Taste: 9, Look: 9, Drinkability: 9, Overall: 9.0

Useless Fact: There is a 6 foot high stone monument dedicated to the comic-strip character Popeye in Crystal City, Texas.

Drake’s Brewing Company Denogginizer (365 Day 138)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Drake's Denogginizer

I am no exception from the group: I appreciate a nice big honkin’ American Double IPA. Of course there are west coast and east coast DIPAs with the Midwest somewhere between. If you try to spark up a conversation on the topic, you are sure to get many responses on both sides of the fence.

West Coast has a very hop forward style with pine, grapefruit, and bitterness dominating the style. The east coast is more hop centric and low key. The midwest has American craft beers that represent both fronts. I guess I am a bit of a hop head, needing a hop fix now and then that can only be satiated with huge amount of hops. Thus, I am a west coast fan. I will drink both, but prefer the aromas and flavors of the heavily hopped.

In comes a recent transaction that landed me a bottle of Denogginizer by Drake’s Brewing Company, a big west coast DIPA. Strong on the hops with a solid malt backbone, this IIPA can stand up against just about any of the offerings out west. I wish I could be a frequent flier. Enjoy!

Aroma: 10, Taste: 9, Look: 10, Drinkability: 8, Overall: 9.1

Useless Fact: Studies done by the Psychology Department of Depauw University show that the principal reason people lie is to avoid punishment.

Centennial Hops Growing (Part 2)

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

2nd Year Centennial Hop on 2011-04-17

Last Sunday in Chicagoland was close to 90 degrees: my hop plant loved it! I brewed two batches of beer: Dirty Balls Dark India Pale Ale and Honey Pot Pale Ale. Chuck was over to shoot the shit and, per my request, brought me over a clipping of his Mt. Hood hops that we planted after the brew day.

The brew day went fine with both beers already done fermenting and the complete brew day taking about 6.5 hours for both batches. Not bad. I cool my wort in my utility sink, which usually takes about 25 minutes with me vigorously shaking the brew kettle every few minutes. Chuck was the extra set of hands I never had: he twirled the pot by the handle in the ice bath, almost constantly, and wort was down to temp in 17 minutes. Nice!

But this write is about the hop plant out back. In the last week it went from what I had last week to more than double the size this week. My strongest bines are now in the 14 inch range, if not longer.

Earlier I brought up last Sunday’s weather, today’s morning temperature was in the 30s. We have had some harsh weather this week: rain, storms, cold, etc and it seems to have stunted the hop plant a touch as most of the growth seemed to come earlier in the week. Heck, I think it grew a good two inches last Sunday. Ladies Day India Pale Ale will be in the brew kettle shortly. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Undertakers report that human bodies do not deteriorate as quickly as they used to. The reason for this, they believe, is that the modern diet contains so many preservatives that these chemicals tend to prevent the body from decomposing too quickly after death.

The Bruery Saison Rue (365 Day 137)

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

The Bruery Saison Rue

The Bruery started distributing their American craft beer to Illinois probably eighteen months or so ago now. When they first did, only a couple of their year rounds were available and as time went that group of beers increased to even include a couple of one shots.

The hype was big when they first broke into the market. In spite of their $10 or more per 750ml cost, they didn’t last long. I caught the fever myself. I purchased everything they threw our way, but, for some reason, I really didn’t review them. I held them in higher regard. I have had a few of their beers at get together with other beer guys but never cracked the few bottles I have had.

In the back of my head I have been deciding on a “Bruery” night to try all these beers. Still haven’t decided when but yesterday was the day to have a beer, having enough time to down a 750 by myself.

Saison Rue was the chosen and is probably a good fourteen months old. I obviously don’t know what this tastes like fresh but the cellared version is outstanding. Farmhouse ales are another one of my favorite styles as I appreciate the subtle complexities and tartness. I will be on the prowl for another bottle, looking forward to a fresh take on this beer. Enjoy!

Aroma: 10, Taste: 9, Look: 9, Drinkability: 9, Overall: 9.3

Useless Fact: President Taft weighed 352 pounds.

Williamsburg AleWerks Washington’s Porter (365 Day 136)

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

AleWerks Washington's Porter

American porter is probably one of my favorite categories of American craft beer. Something about this style has grasped me and I have an intimate indulgence with it since my early days in American craft beer. I have the propensity to rate this style higher for no other reason that “because.”

So why the affinity for the style? Glad you asked. I think this style has a great amount of variance (seems like most styles do these days). I can have an American porter that is high hopped, has a lot of roast, has a lot of chocolate, has a lot of coffee, has a lot of dark fruits, and the list can go on. The bridge to stouts seems to have the ability to morph and take any combination of the aforementioned attributes at any time, unlike stouts where they should be present; outside of the high hops.

Washington’s Porter by Williamsburg AleWerks has been cellared for about a year. So the review is not of a fresh beer. I found the beer to have all the qualities that I search for in a quality porter. Definitely a beer to put on your list. Enjoy!

Aroma: 7, Taste: 9, Look: 9, Drinkability: 9, Overall: 8.5

Useless Fact: Murder is the only crime that does not increase during the full moon. Theft, disorderly conduct, larceny, armed robbery, assault and battery, illegal breaking and entering, and rape all statistically increase dramatically during the full moon.

Alpine Beer Company Duet (365 Day 135)

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Alpine Duet

Thursday night was supposed to be all about Clown Shoes and their American craft beer. We started the evening off with Clementine which, as a group, we thought was a solid beer. After that each beer we had just seemed to modifications on the other with Clementine being really the only distinct beer. The other three shared, seemingly, the same malts and hop profiles. It felt redundant and became painful.

I couldn’t have a Thursday night get together end on such a bad note; three clunkers in a row would set a bad omen for the weekend. Instead I pulled out a fresh bottle of Duet by Alpine Beer Company. Duet had just came by way of my cousin out in California. My cousin had also scored me a bottle of Exponential Hoppiness but it didn’t make the trip in one peace. Please, a moment of silence for such a high quality American craft beer loss. 😉

Duet has a great aroma, solid taste, mouth feel, and drinkability. I think Alpine puts out a set of top notch IPAs that are up there with the best west coast IPAs you want to match it too. Enjoy!

Aroma: 10, Taste: 9, Look: 9, Drinkability: 8, Overall: 8.9

Useless Fact: Michael Jordan makes more money from Nike annually than all of the Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined.